July 3 2007 Meeting notes

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Conference Call Notes

Drafted by Joe Andrieu, July 03, 2007


  1. vrm at chat.freenode.net

Other Calls

Category:conference call


  • Joe Andrieu
  • Dean Landsman
  • Nick Givotocsky
  • Kevin Barron
  • Chris Carfi
  • Doc Searls
  • Britt Blaser
  • Drummond Reed
  • Alan Mitchell



Meeting in the UK on the July 16th in Oxford, hosted by Oxford Internet Institute (OII).

Expected attendees:

JP Ragaswami, Jeremy (tiddlywiki), a few more folks from SuperNova. Alan Mitchell, Iain Henderson, Mark Lizar, Andreana, Steve, Doc.

Perhaps a few more hand-picked folks. Doc likes that this is growing organically rather than promotionally. We'd rather have it grow that way rather than getting a bunch of people showing up and then having to weed out those that aren't really interested.


The question that came up is wouldn't XDI/XRI be a good technology for sharing APML data. That is particularly relevant because there are folks associated with Higgins who are very interested in doing that. That form of attention data is about as a high a value as Doc's 'intention' work. Assuming we can correlate that attention to intention, that's pretty much near gold. So if there is a very low friction way for a customer to share that data in a high trust framework, we have a fairly strong benevolent virus.

The key thing is the category of a high-trust relationship. We are talking about a breed of relationships that happen in those conditions. However, we should be careful about handling marketing in this mix... this isn't about enabling the vendor to market more, it is about empowering the user. So we need to be careful about issues of user control and privacy.

Chris Skaad of Particle, the orginator of APML has been chatting with Nick. A lot of these concerns have been raised and there is an interest in addressing them. He does understand the user-side contract conditions.

John Clippinger of Berkman would say we don't have a lot of what we need to construct the user-side contracts. In the absence of a well-understood set of codified rights and privileges on the customer side, the user-side contract would be understood in the vendor's context.

This is one of the areas where the conversation with Particle has explored, so that the conditions of release are embedded in the APML. So that rights and permissions are associated and as important architecturally as the attention data itself. The challenge is to make it powerful and not proscriptive, so it can accomodate a full spectrum of models.

Doc can't imagine any conditions that would lead me to disclose my attention data to any vendors. I don't have any relationships that this makes sense for.

One question is to what extent do we want to make that a VRM thing? This can only work in the context of a developed relationship. This presupposes marriage in the absence of courtship.

The issue is that we don't have a clear use case for the user.

If you are able to present credentials that could give you access to media, that is useful.

Perhaps that's not APML, but is a non-media specific media licensing mechanism, so we can take the songs from our iPod to our iPhone to our PC to our work machine. Good VRM stuff.

Another potential use case: individuals trading data, selling information about yourself to make some money. This could definitely use APML.

Yet, we don't want to hand vendors the keys to the car they are going to run over us with.

One issues with "Attention" as a verb and a noun, is that one of the original players in the attention realm was surreptitiously reselling data to mortgage companies and things like that, totally exploiting the attention data for their own use, and not really aligned with the users.

There is a concern that if an architecture gets built here that can be exploited, it will be. Google AdSense brings something like $1B to spammers. It turns entire swaths of the Internet into ad-dominated slums.

We need to be mindful of what we are inviting when we don't need to.

There really is a profound function... that all of VRM rests of a core proposition that the sanctity of the user data is protected by policies and agreements, but the ultimate source of that is the vendor's respect for the customer. If the vendor is going to take that data and exploit it, and otherwise break the trust with the user, then everything will fall apart.

What is the Data Rights agreement works as a contract? That's a start, but the cost of enforcing is a problem.

Any of these vendors can be purchased, and the new owner can do whatever they want.

It was because copyright was entirely defined by large companies, rather than artists, that yielded copyright policies that were onerous to everyone except the big guys. Because of that Creative Commons was created. There is an opportunity here to do something similar. And Berkman has a definite interest in facilitating and promoting that. So that users can say "here's what I want" "here are the terms for access to my 'attention'".

We need these rights to be readable in an automatic way by vendors throughout the world.

We are looking for an independent body to represent customers--and not customers as victims or as aggregated power--like Creative Commons that presents and advocates the user-centric view.

Is attention data a first-order piece of property?

Most large organizations are more concerned about being sued by consumers. So, you can probably stipulate the penalties for violating the terms.

Three items to work in parallel:

  1. Market forces and a business model that makes VRM a benefit for both the vendor and the individual.
  2. Legislation and pressure for legislation.
  3. Body of opinion that is alerting people to both the commercial opportunities and the user-benefits.

What we need to do is work that offers better carrots than sticks. That is, something that says on the buyer's side: I'm more than a buyer. I'm somebody you want to relate to. Doc gets surveys from them all the time and they never seem to be quite on the mark. Instead, Doc would be willing to disclose some low-risk data. He is interested in letting vendors know things that are useful to them; let's find a way to make that show up in a way that Doc is a resource for the vendor, rather than just a point of sale.

Nate Garvis, VP of Govt. Affairs at Target, a major department store in the US: What's the upside for me? Doc said "Getting rid of guesswork." He totally got it. They (vendors) spend billions on CRM guesswork. "So much of our ethos is tied up in 'owning the customer'" To which Doc said "what's another term for owning another person". "Slavery." But what we really want is for customers to love us. That's not "ownership". And it is distinct from the advertising mandate. Now, Nate isn't in the marketing/advertising pipeline, but his value proposition works, independent of the need to "own" the customer through better CRM.

Let's place a mark here for revisiting later to develop policies for how users deal with vendors. Would this require an organization? How would we go about making that?

There's also a clear relationship here with the Identity Rights Agreements group in the Identity Commons. This is one of those things where the technology and the social arrangements are not quite there yet, but they are rushing up on us, right on the horizon. It would be good to have a clear relationship between what VRM is doing and Identity Commons.

What is the hypothesis we are testing? For example, we believe good things will happen if customers are better equipped. But I think we need to be more specific than that. I'm [Doc is] going to be spending some time with academics in the business school at MIT, recruiting an interest in VRM and what challenges it might pose to orthodox economics. Perhaps what sees the Internet not as a public good, but as an externality. So what happens to economics when relationships start forming that follow egalitarian models rather than subsuming the customer to the vendor.

Regarding the politics... it may be easier to fix American politics rather than American business. Steve Urquhart will be launching "Politicopia" live tomorrow night as part of a large effort called "Independent Year US". On Aug 7 in Boston, Steve is addressing the national council of state legislatures, describing the successes of Politicopia. There will be a service for every state. Initially it is just Utah, which is where Steve is from. We might actually find that you can take a brand new topic, like the VRM-related legislation could erupt and solidify before the big-guys can respond.

UCC... there is no government organization, there is an independent group that manages it. They just set themselves up to do it. Berkman could set themselves up and start publishing the Uniform Attention Code.

In our very early VRM conversations, we talked about RosettaNet. A couple years ago, RosettaNet was acquired by UCC. Chris still has some very good connections to that group.

Arguably, you don't need a lot of permission for the UCC role, you just start doing it. If by some miracle we have some context for creating legislation about it, it gets even better.

If this is interesting, I think we should convene a body in Boston or elsewhere.

This parallels a recent development in Michigan that added criminal penalties for firms that violated data retention rules for credit card data. This essentially extended the existing contractual terms into criminal penalties. There is a good chance of championing criminal reinforcement for user-data contractual access rights.

How can Liberty join us and support us?


We are growing and we need to solidify some things.

Perhaps July 28 as a planning session, in Boston.


what who when status
---------- ---------- ---------- ----------
open id on wiki david no date
static website development doc, dean, joe, chris no date
group blog/RSS to wiki (venus) doc no date up, talk to doc if you want to author
project VRM definition doc 1 week still working on it
brainstorm Initiatives all ongoing

Action Items

what who when status

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